Social Question

nebule's avatar

How do you surrender to the randomness of life?

Asked by nebule (16379 points ) March 18th, 2011

I have always been a worrier about what unfortunate events my befall me. However, having recently been in a car accident (that wasn’t my fault and couldn’t have been avoided) it seems that my ordinary need to control life has been thrown even more into jeopardy.

I worry all the time about ‘bad’ things happening and it’s manifesting itself in bodily problems and preventing me from living life to the full. I would like my fellow jellies help.

Have you surrendered to the randomness of life in all its chaos? How do you life freely and without need to control everything? (Inevitably not being able to control everything) How do I surrender to fear without feeling crippled by it and constantly sick?

I feel like my body is always tense and trying to hold everything together yet only making me feel more imprisoned by the fear of the unknown.

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35 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

If you don’t, it’s going to get you anyway.

Focus on what you likely can control.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

We have no choice.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Life at times can be a cosmic shit sandwich, other times it’s frigging great. You control what you can control and don’t worry about what you can’t. And don’t sweat the small stuff.

deni's avatar

Don’t worry about what unfortunate events MIGHT and probably WON’T randomly befall you. Instead look forward to what positive and exciting things WILL happen to you. Life is too short (pardon the cliche) to be so negative. :)

blueiiznh's avatar

I take one day each. like one step in front of the other.
I also know there are days that I have to deal with Life on Life’s terms.
A close friend of mine was in a similar situation and this concept was part of his recovery and a tool that helped him.
Know that there are many who care and to reach out for something as simple as talking about it can release and relieve some of those worries.
It is something at a deeper level if you are feeling paralyzed by it and some medical advise would be helpful to that end.

{{{BIG HUG}}}

Scooby's avatar

I always try to look on the bright side of life ;-) I’m just an optimistic fool I guess……

erichw1504's avatar

Put up a white flag.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@nebule How bad was the car accident?

nebule's avatar

Thank you all xxx @Adirondackwannabe I was driving back from the local shop and a school girl ran into the road from out behind her friends. I was doing 30mph, probably less because I was breaking at the time anyway, going downhill. She hit the front bonnet and passenger side of the car as I tried to swerve out of the way. She had what looked like a bad head injury but recovered as far as I know. The police contacted a couple of days after the accident to say she was on the mend.

Everyone tells me how ‘lucky’ she was that she hit me and no-one else as most people drive down that road at 40mph. But it’s the fact that I couldn’t have done anything else to avoid what happened. I just feel like any moment something else bad could happen, the chances are just the same as they were before. :-(

tranquilsea's avatar

@nebule That is awful. I can understand why you are so shaken up. Give yourself some time to get over this as the feelings should decrease. I’m glad the girl is going to be ok.

So going forward, in answer to your question, you have to try to live in the moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn has a series of books and CDs on mindfulness. You should find them and try to work through them.

This is something I’ve struggled with after having a series of traumas. It take a lot of hard work and patience.

Qingu's avatar

Wax philosophical. Order emerges from chaotic quantum randomness.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@nebule That’s one of those things you can’t control. Things and people run into the road and sometimes shit happens. The best we can do is try to take precautions, like slowing down if you see kids, watching the sides of the road as well as what’s in front, etc. I can understand why you’re shaken. That’s one of my worst fears, hitting a child.

deni's avatar

@nebule Something bad could happen to you, or anyone, at any given moment. But it’s up to you if you want to spend your time worrying about what it could be. Since you can’t control it, it’s sort of silly to worry about it all the time. It will happen if it’s going to happen anyhow, you know?

Tropical_Willie's avatar

PTSD is common after an accident. I’ve had a couple of bad accidents, not my fault, I just had to work through it.

Relax and take a deep breath and if it continues for more than a few more days get some professional help from a counselor. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.

marinelife's avatar

Talk to your counselor about it.

One thing that helped me with pre-event anxiety was to stop and imagine what was the worst thing that could happen. Then to think how I would deal with it if it did happen. It left me feeling more prepared.

stump's avatar

Meditation is a great tool for relaxing and surrendering to life. I recommend you set 10 minutes aside each morning or evening (preferably both) to sit still in a quiet place and think about nothing, feel yourself breathing and imagine a calm natural scene, like a still lake, or a sunset. Everytime you start thinking about the future or past, remind yourself to let it go and concentrate on your breathing and that still lake (or whatever). Don’t reprimand yourself, but just let go of the thoughts and refocus. You will soon be spending more time in the present and worrying less about the future.

Austinlad's avatar

The best one can do, I think, is to control, or try to control, little things in our lives. Paying bills on time and saving what money we can. Arranging furniture the way we like it. Taking care of our pets. Keeping the lawn mowed and house neat. Filing important papers. Finding a hobby we love and pursuing it. Taking classes in subjects we enjoy. Making ourselves available to help friends and relatives to the extent we can. Keeping ourselves as healthy as possible and seeing a doctor or dentist when we feel we need to. Not procrastinating on things we know we have to do. Keeping up with the IRS. Doing the best we can on our jobs and finding another job if we don’t like the one we have. And in general, budgeting our time with a good balance of work and play.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@nebule – I think you and I have similar temperaments, so I think I know exactly where you’re coming from. It’s tough, when you have an anxious personality, to shut off the brain, the thinking, and the worrying.

Some things I think about to help.. one, there is no sense in wasting time and energy worrying about something that is merely a remote possibility. There’s no point in freaking out about something until you know it’s happening or that there’s a high probability that it will happen.

I hit a bicyclist about 15 years ago. He had a red light and shot out of a dark park right in front of my car. I was going the speed limit and I hit my brakes at the first possible moment, but I still hit him and he sustained a serious head injury. I have a tendency to take responsibility/blame and I felt really guilty about this situation for a long time, especially because I had been the cause of someone getting injured. What helped was playing the situation over and over in my head and I finally had to admit to myself that I had done everything the way that I was supposed to, that the cyclist was in the wrong, and I was able to forgive myself and begin to let go.

Be a friend to yourself. Take a step back and ask yourself: if one of your best friends came to you and told you they were struggling with this issue (or any other), what would you say to them and how would you react? You’re probably being much harder on yourself than you would if this situation belonged to someone else. Personally, I find it much harder to be forgiving of myself and to go easy on myself in difficult situations, than I am to my loved ones.

Acknowledging how little control I have in life, surrendering to chance and to life, is also helpful and can be powerful at times, if I can manage to do it. :) Control the things in your purview, and learn to let go and breathe, regarding the things that you can’t.

Coloma's avatar

Learning to live with uncertainty and still be able to find peace and joy IS the task of all humans if they wish to truly transcend to a better way of living.

Attaining some measure of ‘enlightenment’ encompasses this task.

You are then ‘free’ to enjoy people, things, but not identify with ‘having to have’, or anything needing to be a certain way in order to feel a sense of ‘self’, peace, happiness.

Excessive worry is the byproduct of the suffering ego that fears to face the fact it has little control, and, especially in matters of death, real or imagined. lol

Facts are usually faceable, stories are not.

Ego loves to tell stories and predict the future, judge the past and, in general, keep everything on red alert at all times.

” I have .50 in my bank account” is a fact.
” I am ruined forever” is an ego story.

I like the mantra of ” pain happens, suffering is optional.”
Nobody likes to admit it, but, it’s true. :-)

janbb's avatar

What’s the alternative?

nebule's avatar

@janbb well…be frightened obviously?

janbb's avatar

Yeah – that was a bit flip. I basically think that your temperament and experiences will shape how you react and the best you can do is try to mitigate against them if you can. I am a worrier too so I know where you are coming from.

auntydeb's avatar

Hey @nebule – what a horrible thing to happen, anyone would find that event stressful, not everyone would be so open to dealing with it. I agree with @MissAnthrope, and share some of that anxiety also. You might find the writings of Alain de Botton interesting, his ‘Consolations of Philosphy’* are calming, inviting a rational and simple approach to the everyday difficulties of life. He writes in a very readable way and his thoughts are not new, only packaged for the modern world. @Austinlad‘s thoughts on simple routine is sensible, but care must be taken not to get obsessive about the small chores of life! I also like what @MissAnthrope says about thinking through the event, until it is inevitable that you find no blame for yourself. That is pretty much the ‘philosophical’ approach.

It seems to me that your own acceptance of your fears, your willingness to address them and your obvious openness to suggestions contains the seeds of something more useful to you. The anxiety you feel is about the apparent ‘randomness’ of life, but actually, change is always going to happen, it is what life is about. Living processes are ordered, but at any given moment, chaos can interrupt that order. Humans have unique choice in the ordering of things, we can make or destroy at whim, without reason. Do you garden? Do you keep pets? Maybe channeling a little energy into some extra caring activity would help you feel less anxious? Volunteering, especially with some elderly folk might also be an option. Talk to very old people – some of them have had the scariest lives!

At the age of 37 I was diagnosed with MS, it put a quick end to my plans at the time. Over the next couple of years, I did my best to ‘take control’; changing my diet, exercising, choosing a slower and calmer way of life, but the most helpful thing was actually to embrace the fear and to invite it to become my friend. I faced the demon of my MS, enquired after its meanings, looked into its damage and came up with reason to be grateful for what it showed me. I still have anxiety, but that is mainly born from family relations! I am disappointed that over the last couple of years my walking has been affected, but actually, I am still pretty mobile.

Counting blessings, daring the fear to come and find you – then facing it and seeing it as a weak force, a thing to be pitied rather than something that must rule you – is a way to find the kind of ‘control’ that permits reality to run its course without throttling you. A gentle hold on the reins, or steering wheel; a relaxed but alert sort of vigilance is less exhausting and allows a bit more room for reaction. Tai Chi is great for this too…

Hmm, it’s midnight again, I’ve gone on a bit and could say more, but I need to sleep! Do you dream @nebule? Ask your dream self for some guidance too. Our unconscious is deeply useful in situations like these.

Have fun!

*The Consolations of Philosophy

* Paperback 272 pages (March 1, 2001)
* Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
* Language: English
* ISBN: 0140276610
His website here

flutherother's avatar

@nebule I don’t have an answer, but this poem came to my mind, which may at least describe what you are looking for.

Yes
By William Stafford

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out—no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

janbb's avatar

@flutherother Great poem. I’ll add another new favorite on the same theme:

**Dust of Snow**

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

—Robert Frost

CaptainHarley's avatar

Cultivate your sense of “I don’t GIVE a crap!” : D

faye's avatar

I sympathize completely. The worst possible scenarios flash through my mind continuously and I have to vigorouly push them out. I’ve simply become used to this way of living. And nothing really bad has ever happened! Finally I just weary of the worrying and lose myself in a book or movie. I tell my family that nothing really bad happens because I’m mentally preventing it. I do talk to myself rationally, the stats about how many planes crash, doesn’t mean my daughter is anywhere near the rioting in athens last year just because she’s there- big city. Also my son and DIL flew to Maui- I kept that plane up- and I worried the storms in Maine last xmas away for another daughter. No wonder I feel exhausted! I do do this kind of thing constantly.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I would suggest not surrendering, but rather embracing the randomness of life. Make it yours. The Epicureans thought we could do this by learning to see that less is often more. The Stoics, meanwhile, thought that aiming properly is more important than hitting the target. And the existentialists argued that we are our reactions to the world.

In each case, the point is to cultivate a state of mind immune to the vagaries of life by seeing such changes as reminders of what is truly important: not fear, but life itself. You have already felt what the alternative is like.

nebule's avatar

@iamthemob It is a good point that you raise, focuins more on the things I can control, thank you x
@Simone_De_Beauvoir That’s exactly what I worry about…not having any choice in the matter
@Adirondackwannabe Thank you, I shall try to not sweat the small stuff
@deni Sometimes it’s must hard to see the positives when it seems that the negatives are waiting round the corner to floor you every time you stand up, but I shall try to concentrate on what good things might be round the corner and see if I can see through the mist x In response to your second comment…I don’t think worrying is a choice for some people..really…it grips you and won’t let you go.
@blueiiznh Your words are always a comfort thank you xx Great article too. I have spoken to the doctor about how I’m feeling and he says that it’s perfectly normal…so will keep plodding on…oooh that sounds rather negative doesn’t it… I shall try skipping! xx
@Scooby Love that film! I grew up with it… thank you xx
@erichw1504 I quite like the white flag idea actually but what exactly am I surrendering to?
@tranquilsea Thank you, I’ve heard of Jon Kabat-Zin and shall look into his tapes x The road is long isn’t it I hope you are doing well xx
@Qingu Well, philosophy is one of my favourite subjects and have studied quite a bit.. you’d think it would help! x
@Adirondackwannabe You are right, we can only take as many precautions as possible xx
@Tropical_Willie And how are you doing now? xx
@marinelife I think I have imagined the worst thing that could happen…that I could have killed her and I don’t think I could have coped with that at all…that’s probably one of the roots of the problem…
@stump Yes, I agree thank you, I have been breathing a lot in the last 24 hours, to try and gain some control over my nervous system and was thinking about taking up meditation again too x Thank you for your suggestion xx
@Austinlad Some great suggestions thank you it’s easy to forget about all the life stuff hen everything is hazy x
@MissAnthrope You are a kindred soul, thank you x I struggle at the best of times to be kind to myself so it’s not surprising that I’m forgetting that little necessity. xxx
@Coloma I see your point and recognize the idealism in the statement, pain happens suffering is optional but it seems to hint that once again we are choosing to suffer and therein it suggests that we are just wallowing in self pity and can at any moment snap out of it. I understand the ego tells us stories…but that’s who we are… but we also seek truth and stability and comfort within the stories…we are not ourselves if we take all the story away…that’s just biological fact. I don’t want to toss the baby out with the bathwater here.
@janbb xx
@auntydeb Thank you for sharing your story, it has helped a lot… I have just read Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love actually and it is one of the most beautifully and cleverly written books I’ve ever read! I shall certainly buy his Consolations of Philosophy Thank you sweetie, you are a treasure xxxx What a beautifully written comment xx can’t thank you enough x
@flutherother That’s a beautiful poem thank you xx I shall post it on my kettle quote wall!! xxx
@janbb another lovely poem thank you xx
@CaptainHarley Can you give me some tips on doing that? x
@faye Thank you for sharing xx books and movies are a great way to stop worrying you are totally right thank you!! xxx
@SavoirFaire Thank you, again another beautifully written set of thoughts xxx

auntydeb's avatar

Aw, you’re a sweety too @nebule – glad Mr de Botton has already crossed your path. I must read more from him methinks. The poems here are lovely, this aspect of Fluther is mainly what has kept me a member, such depth in the cyber-hours! x

CaptainHarley's avatar

@nebule

Not really sure I can, except to suggest that you periodically have a long talk with yourself and remind yourself that life is short and full of trouble and that there’s nothing we can do about most of it. Focus on the things you love, the people you love, and what things you can impact, and let the rest go. : )

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@nebule I don’t have flash-backs anymore. Take the deep breath. . . .

Coloma's avatar

@nebule

Actually it is the opposite.
We are NOT our stories, that’s the hitch of ego, its desire for us to identify with story instead of fact.

Suffering IS a choice.

‘He died’ is fact
‘He died and he shouldn’t have died, and it is bad, wrong, terrible he died’ is the story that creates suffering by fighting what is.

The story of ‘why’ things should not be as they are is what suffering IS.

Suffering is brought on by fighting with reality and is the very definition of insanity.

You CAN just stop identifying with thought, unless you have a serious mental illness, it is as easy as becoming self aware enough to catch ego in it’s story telling and reject all the thoughts that do not pertain to reality.

Our thoughts create our feelings and awareness is what separates the neurotic from the non-neurotic.

While the mind/ego will try to trick us into feeling bad and identifying with story as truth, the aware person, while not above it all, has the self awareness to catch the negative thoughts and reject them for what they are, fiction.

People don’t want to hear this because it means they have to take responsibility for the state of mind they create for themselves and they’d rather stay in the victim role.

Like everything, practice makes perfect, and that is why self awareness is the golden ticket to not buying into the side show of ego and it’s incessant desire to cling to it’s stories and it’s fear of peace.

nebule's avatar

@Coloma I appreciate that you are coming from a very spiritual perspective but from a very biological perspective, science would beg to differ… those that have problems, disorders, diseases of memory – and thereby our stories will testify (or at least those that research and study them) that ‘they’ are intrinsically their stories…putting ego aside. We can tell ourselves stories that are not or are, in part or in full true and I agree with you on this… but is it not true that by your very own hypothesis… you state ‘unless you have a serious mental illness, it is as easy as becoming self aware’ It’s all based in biology…out of which comes the choice…without memory we cannot choose and yet with the memories we are subject to encompassing so many other factors that is is quite impossible just to choose….

Coloma's avatar

@nebule

I’m not sure I am following you?

Biology has a huge impact, of course, but, you lost me at ’ memory and choice and ‘other factors.’

I am simply saying that for those that ARE able to recognize some philosophical ‘truths’, that is how we would, ultimately, attain more unity as a world.

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